Image: Hanami – Flower Viewing, Aotearoa 2020 by Celeste Sterling
The Hanami 花見 artwork pictured above was made by nature printing spring foliage and flowers from my garden and neighbourhood, including blossoms, jonquils, lavender, geraniums, viburnum, wild strawberry and corokia. It was created during the second Auckland lockdown and was intended to be a gentle celebration of the return of Kōanga – Spring in Aotearoa, during a time of uncertainty and difficulty. It is an artwork which seeks to communicate something about the natural world and our relationship with it. We are faced with much transient beauty in the world around us at this time of year, offering a chance to enjoy the fresh new growth of spring after winter. Spring is a time of growth but also fragility. This Spring we must also acknowledge the urgent need to change how we do everything – to respect, cherish and work with nature in more sustainable ways, to halt the damage currently being done to our natural environment and atmosphere.
This artwork was made for the Shared Lines: Pūtahitanga project, a collaborative exhibition available in physical form and online. A 72 metre installation in the new Spark building in Ōtautahi, Christchurch, the project is a collaboration with 60 artists each creating an artwork which join up to create a “river” of art. This concept derives from a Surrealist tradition. The Shared Lines: Pūtahitanga project is also available to view online at sharedlinesputahitanga.co.nz and will be on digital billboards nationwide in Aotearoa, New Zealand. It is wonderful to be part of this artist initiated project. Artists are finding new ways to work together and to make art available in multiple ways to audiences.
This spring I was fortunate to take two trips which had been postponed from earlier in the year due to the lockdowns. The first was to the Eco Village near Kaiwaka, a community using organics and permaculture to live more sustainably. I enjoyed the chance to explore the organic permaculture garden of our hosts and to learn a little more about this special place. There was a natural swimming pool full of life and beautiful spring flowers sprinkled around the large straw bale house. It was my first trip out of the city since January and it felt like a huge adventure to be somewhere other than home.
My second journey was to the small town of Geraldine in the South Island to visit relatives. It was a real privilege to be there in Spring and to see the blooms all over this area. I had the chance to do some floristry while I was visiting with gorgeous spring lilacs and other flowers that one doesn’t usually come by in the North. It would be a pleasure to make artworks with some of these spring plants in the future.
The time away was a good chance to reflect on the challenges of this year, and to make plans for future artworks and a relaunch of my small business, Corokia Studio. I know there are still many challenges ahead. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit the South Island and to see my artwork as part of a large exhibition, a much needed boost after winter.
For my Patreon subscribers in September I did two artworks. A little extra seasonal artwork with freesias and plum, and an artwork nature printed with spectacular Firewheel flowers. The Firewheel tree (Stenocarpus sinuatus) is native to parts of Queensland and NSW in Australia. The flowers are amazing, a gorgeous bright red colour. The leaves are also unusual. In this painting I only nature printed the flowers as the leaves were too large to include. Sadly fire has once again been in the news, with a disastrous fire season in California and Oregon and continued devastation in the Amazonian rainforest. Whilst I was in Geraldine, early one morning I awoke to the sound of the fire siren summoning the fire service to the small village of Lake Ōhau in the Mackenzie district, which was largely destroyed by a forest fire in scenes reminiscent of the Australian bushfire season.
The only type of fire that I want to see in nature is these flowers.
The extra seasonal artwork for Patreon subscribers last month was made with freesias, plum leaves and blooms, kowhai and the leaves of orange honeysuckle. All these came from my mother’s garden and roadside trees. Quite a medley of spring plants, sometimes the artworks are a reflection of the small errands and trips that happen over the week. These artworks are available by subscription to my Patreon page, where I provide monthly artworks to supporters.
I came home from my trip to find some of the cosmos flowers that I had planted in the garden had started to bloom. Fortunately some recent rain has encouraged the new plants to settle in. Auckland is still experiencing drought conditions so it was a relief to see the plants survived whilst I was away. Some of these will find their way into the next series of artworks, as in the artwork (detail) pictured below, nature printed with lavender, kowhai, geranium and other garden plants.
I hope that whatever your situation is you have the chance to take some time in nature and to appreciate the fleeting beauty of seasonal flowers and plants. I’m looking forward to nature printing the colourful flowers and plants of late spring and early summer over November and December.
Celeste Sterling, October 2020